The Pirate Bay is one of –if not the— most popular torrents sites on the Internet. The site is famous as a champion of the rights of downloaders, and revels in thumbing its nose at corporate threats. Situated in Sweden, where copyright laws are different from those in the USA, the site has been able to deny the demands of mostly American corporations (filmmakers, software manufacturers, etc) to remove their links to copyrighted materials.
It comes down to this: a torrent is not copyrighted material. It’s a pointer to where material may be located, usually on the private computers of thousands of nerds scattered across the world. So The Pirate Bay offers information, not content. And, under very rational Swedish law, it’s not illegal to offer information. God bless the little arseholes.
The history of The Pirate Bay is summarized on Wikipedia here. What’s more fun, though, is reading TPB’s many insulting responses to legal threats, which they post here. The best bits are the correspondence between TPB and that copyright bully, Web Sheriff.
So what’s my take on the downloading of copyrighted material? Well, if someone offers me content for free, then it is rational for me to accept it. People should not be penalized for doing what is rational. Businesses –the movie and music industries in particular– need to develop new business models for making their inflated profits. Downloading is a response to decades of outrageous pricing strategies and the flooding of the market with poor quality products. Most people would gladly pay a reasonable price for high quality entertainment. But since such is not available, it is perfectly understandable and rational for us to seek low quality entertainment for free.
As an author, and therefore a producer of content and an owner of copyright, how would I feel if my works were being downloaded for free? It wouldn’t bother me a bit, so long as (A) my content was not being altered in any way; and (B) my name remains attached to the work. In short, all I care about is the integrity of my work and being acknowledged as its creator; payment doesn’t even enter my thought process. Of course, I’m not making 7 figures off my books. Maybe I’d feel differently if I were.
But I’m not. Of course, if I were, then I could afford to pay full price for all the content I presently download….